Just yesterday, a fabulously thoughtful young man, who has done more solid theological study than most, and keeps up with his role in a Reformed, evangelical congregation by offering leadership among youthful friends, sharing their pain and pointing them to the deeper things of God, came in the store with a very heavy heart. I, too, was not in the best frame of mind and the two of us just felt the weight of the world. We pondered how books might help kids catch a bigger glimpse of the Story of God, how a Christian worldview might impact the lives of his young friends, how the postmodern times of the new century might shape the development of his youth as they eventually mature into long term disciples of Christ. Being a faithful Christian–engaged in the real world, but not of it–is never easy. It certainly isn’t easy now.
And so, this good, good guy needs help. We all need help, of course, but those who work with younger folk—from the goofy tweeners to the hipster collegiates–need all the faithful assistance we can find. And, to be honest, some of our churchy literature is just a bit too shallow, can’t stand up to the needs of my friend and his youth group.
There has been a recent renaissance of thoughtful youth ministry stuff. You may have read in my monthly book review column a few years back my claim that The God Bearing Life was a paradigm-shifting book, and that youth ministry studies will never be the same. My little prediction has come true, as newer authors have called for a spirituality of youth ministry; books like Tony Jones’ Soul-Shaping offer exercises in prayerfulness and serious studies like Christian Smith’s Oxford University Press book, Soul Searching, lament that teens have a sadly thin vocabulary about God. Everyone knows we have to help kids experience Christ in classic ways, to not just have zany programs and light-weight lessons, but to help them dig deep into spirituality and inner character.
ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS among this recent great batch of books for youth workers, parents or pastors affirms the need for serious-minded and mature Christian disciple-making but doesn’t slide into trendy teen monasticism. It insists that we must take the world and ethos of the high school sub-culture(s) seriously. Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture: Bridging Teen Worldviews and Christian Truth by Walt Mueller (IVP) suggests that before we reach today’s youth with the truth of the gospel, we need to see what they see and hear what they hear. We need to catch the messages encrypted in their culture and understand what’s really being communicated.
The best names of evangelical youth writers have uniformly affirmed Walt’s work with the central Pennsylvania Center for Parent and Youth Understanding. It is a ministry you should know, with great resources, articles, web stuff, media literacy tools, etc. Walt has been a great friend of Hearts & Minds and is an excellent promoter of worldviewish Christian reading. He knows the importance of books and he loves relating serious truth to real teens, and those who work with them—parents, youth workers, school teachers and counselors. He is as a reliable writer as anyone in this field. His new book may be his most important work and is certainly the most significant book of its kind. We are proud to have been privileged to get an early copy of this vital work, and are excited to announce its brand new release. I will tell you more about it soon.
Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture: Bridging Teen Worldviews and Christian Truth Walt Mueller (IVP) $17.00